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Thursday, 13 August 2015

Ante Kitchen & Bar @ Solaris Dutamas

I have been wanting to try this place for a while now ever since I saw raving reviews on it from many food blogs + friends also recommended the place to me.  The place I'm talking about is Ante Kitchen & Bar @ Solaris Dutamas, a restaurant that highlights pork on its menu.

So, last Sunday, I made a call to see if there was an available table in the next 45 minutes...and there was.  Arriving at the place, I saw patrons outside the restaurant putting their names on the waiting list already.

After we were seated, I checked out the menu (which is rather brief) consisting of a few selected starters, soup, mains, pastas, snacks, desserts and cakes.  My family and I ordered two starters (to share) and three mains.
 
We went with a starter of Deep Fried Soft Poached Egg @ RM22 which featured two poached eggs that had been deep fried sitting atop two slices of crunchy baguette with aioli and crispy kale. 
 
The crispy kale was an interesting and creative touch, not something I commonly see paired with eggs, I must say.
 
The deep fried poached egg was perfectly done...oozing with a runny egg yolk within and a nice crunchy texture on the outside.  The slight bitterness from the crispy kale together with the crunch of the baguette and the creaminess of the oozy egg yolk made it a very pleasurable bite indeed!

Our other starter was their signature Sweet Belly @ RM29 which is very similar to our Chinese-style siu yoke except this had a drizzle of honey soy on the plate.
 
The roast pork belly came in eight large pieces, with a crackling crispy skin, much to our delight.  The meat was flavourful (a bit on the fatty side) but good.  But was it better or as good as say a strip of roast pork from Pudu (or some roasted meat stalls) I've had (and priced more affordably @ RM15 a strip)?  Err.....no!
 
For my main, I originally wanted their signature Chargrilled Pork Steak (RM56) with roasted russet potatoes, browned butter truffle sauce and honey glazed rocket but they were sold out for the day :'(  Can't imagine a restaurant running out of their signature dish so early into their weekend dinner service (at 7.15pm).  So, I had to go with the Chargrilled BBQ Ribs @ RM52 with kimchi slaw and straight cut fries.

When it arrived, I was astonished to see how hefty the portion was.  I think there were 5 - 6 ribs + a portion of soft ribs.  I felt the portion size was too big for one person to finish and I wished the gentleman who took the order had highlighted that (since we also ordered starters).  This is more suitable to be shared by two, in my opinion.  I couldn't finish this even with help from my spouse.
 
The ribs were definitely falling off the bone tender, I'd give it that, but there wasn't much flavour in the meat other than the barbecue-like sauce smothered on it.  It was missing the charred flavour + I couldn't detect any smokiness going through the ribs either.  I'm not saying that the ribs were all that bad, it's just that I've had better and I'd rather pay a bit more for some good Iberico ribs.  The fries were served buried under the ribs, so what you get are soggy fries.  The problem with a kimchi slaw was the cabbage and carrot shreds would have been marinating in a paste causing the otherwise crunchy vegetables to go limp.  I think keeping the cabbage and carrot crunchy in a more refreshing slaw would have been a better option.

My son had the Char Siu Curry Cream Pasta @ RM36 with shimeji mushrooms and smoked eggplant ragout.  The luscious sauce, with hints of curry flavour (not at all spicy), was truly rich and thick but, in the end, proved too cloying to finish.  Great for those who love their pastas really thick and creamy.
 
The house-made char siu had all the sticky sweet, caramelised flavours you'd come to associate with good char siu.  Again, was it better or as good as say Meng Kee's char siu (or any char siu from roasted meat stalls)?  Again...not!

The final main was The Ante Burger @ RM42 for my spouse.  It was our mistake not reading the description of the dish as it wasn't the one I've seen on blogs.  That one had a pork patty, wrapped in bacon strips, topped with an oozy egg and cheese.  If we had read the description, we would definitely not have ordered this.  This was made up of slow braised pork cheek medallions, gorgonzola cream cheese and pickled onions with the same kimchi slaw and straight cut fries. 
 
There was no texture or flavour contrast in this burger...all you get is a bland pork cheek with a strong tasting gorgonzola cheese and onions that tasted like they were just cooked down rather than pickled.  What it lacked....a great sear on the meat for that smoky flavour, sweetness from some caramelised onions, freshness from some vegetables, a tangy twist from (maybe) some pickles, a crunchy element from (maybe) some bacon crisps, a runny egg yolk and (finally) a sauce to bind everything together.  That, to me, is the very definition of a good burger!!  This burger (sadly).....had none of these elements (other than gooeyness from the melted cheese which some would want)!  Although I totally understand that this is not a minced meat patty type of burger...but still....I was looking for a balance of flavours and textures...and there weren't any! 
 
Water was not served automatically.....we had to ask for it.  Service was alright but not particularly warm.  The drinks were decent:

Iced Latte @ RM13
 
Iced Lemon Tea @ RM10

My Personal Opinion

I know that this place is loved by many (even my friends) but I remembered the parting words of my spouse as we were leaving the restaurant..."write honestly"!  I have to stay true to my opinion (and it's perfectly fine if you don't share the same opinion).

The meal got off to a promising start but came to a disappointing end! T_T  There were obviously more misses than hits.  The best dish of the night was the deep fried poached eggs and the worst, the Ante burger....and, anything in between wasn't all that great (although I can't really fault the siew yoke or char siew as comparing them to the traditional ones wouldn't be level playing field).  We left our three mains unfinished coz none enticed us enough to polish our plates clean.  The rather porky flavour in their meat (which I'm not so fond of) kind of reminded me of the pork I had in Three Little Pigs & The Big Bad Wolf
 
I guess I'm being more critical of the food because the prices here aren't cheap with starters costing close to RM30 and mains around RM50.  And what about the prices of desserts...ridiculously steep....RM22 for panna cotta, RM24 for crème brulee and RM29 for a tiny piece of the Valrhona chocolate delice.  With prices like these, there are better options one can find with the same budget.

I came here with high expectations...but ultimately left disappointed!  It was a shame I didn't get to taste their signature chargrilled pork steak...but with some comments so wide ranging from tough and dry to really tender (inconsistent produce and cooking?), I doubt I'll want to return to find out! :(

Ante was shortlisted for "best place for meat" 2014 in Time Out KL and made it to many blogs as one of the best 'oink-oink' places to dine...but it's just not one of mine (or my family's), I'm sorry.  I guess I belong to the minority that didn't sing praises of the place after sampling their food...maybe I didn't order the right dishes or maybe the food just didn't suit my palate.  All I know was that, throughout my meal, I felt that the dishes (other than the first one) were too 'heavy' and needed some sort of freshness and acidity to cut through all that meatiness.  If they really want to serve porkilicious food consistently, they need to up their ante...at least in my books! 

P/S:  Update (25.08.2015)
I've since received a heartfelt email from the Manager of Ante Kitchen & Bar, in response to my review of their restaurant, apologising for the dining experience I had.  As F&B owners, they were not defensive about their food (as some could be) and took my comments and feedback constructively (which I was glad to see) and seemed genuinely sincere in wanting to improve...and that said a lot to me.  Because of this very reason, I may yet return to Ante, one day, and (hopefully) it'll result in a more pleasurable dining experience for me the next time round.

Ante Kitchen & Bar
A2-G1-09 Solaris Dutamas 1
Jalan Dutamas 1
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-6206 3364

13 comments:

  1. This place has been in my to-try list for so long too but the steep pricing and the mix reviews really hold my step :P

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    1. Oh, there have been mixed reviews? The ones I read were mostly positive but, hey, don't let my review deter you from trying for yourself so that you know once and for all.

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  2. Deep fried poached egg? Oooo...interesting! And oooooo....pork!!!! Yum yummmm!!!!

    Ya...I hate it when they say they're sold out - when it happens one time too many, I wonder if it is just an excuse to cover up for their menu - all out to impress but everything's sold out or worse - not available especially when they only have limited choices on their menu and you end up forced to order that sole item that's available. :(

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    1. No, I'm sure they were not trying to impress by saying the pork chop is sold out....that is indeed one of their most saleable items. I just felt that they should have been better stocked with their signature dish (especially since it was so early into their dinner service).

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  3. I wonder if the owners are inspired by Triple D. There are a few episodes where Guy was served kimchi slaw and he went "MMmmhhhhh!!! Yeah that's what I'm talking about!", and their portions for the mains definitely look a bit like American portions from your pictures.

    But ah... big portions of mediocre food would make things worse, it causes the customers to suffer much longer and generate more negative mood and then blog posts like yours will happen LOL! Even by looking at your pictures I can already feel only the fried poached eggs were great :D

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    1. No, I won't go so far to say that their food is mediocre coz it's not....probably average at best. I may find the portions too big but I'm sure there are lots of people out there who love such portion sizes too. I just needed something fresh and zesty on the plate to cut through the heaviness of the dishes.

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  4. Well, it happens. You read glowing reviews but when you get there, you find that the food is nothing to shout about. I don't know, it's either the standards have declined or you went there on a bad day. I've experienced having a dish that tasted great but it wasn't so on another visit. Hmmm...should I try this place? Maybe for an experience of the Deep Fried Soft Poached Eggs. Making poached eggs is already difficult, but to deep fry them? That's something amazing that I must eat at least once!

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    1. You are a pork ribs expert so you must try the ribs here.

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    2. Yes, I agree...poached eggs are already difficult to perfect, let alone deep fried poached eggs! Yeah, I think you should try this place, at least for this deep fried poached egg experience and since Mun mentioned that you're a pork ribs expert. You and your brother may be happy with the large portion of the ribs....hee..hee! ;D Just don't order the burger!

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  5. Perhaps you didn't like the dishes because you are not a meat person. Too bad you all didn't enjoy the food and won't be going back. My spouse doesn't like siew yuk and char siew cooked in a bit of western style so I guess I will not be eating here.

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    1. I think I'm a meat person as I do love steaks and ribs....just not too much in one sitting! I agree with your spouse that siew yoke and char siew is probably best eaten in its traditional form and not tweaked and served western style! ;)

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  6. would love a taste of the "siew Yoke" ....the eggs just nice for me. I like it done this way too

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    1. Who doesn't love an oozy egg yolk, right?

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